Jimmy C.

Jimmy portrait

Jimmy C. is one of Challenge’s many “crossover” success stories.

He first came to the agency in 2014 as a high school student to participate in our inaugural Summer Youth Employment Program, where he was placed at Finger Lakes Fresh for a six-week paid work experience in food prep. After graduating from TST BOCES with a concentration in Culinary Arts, Jimmy came back to Challenge to work with one of our Job Developers to find a permanent position that would take full advantage of his experience and education. Today, Jimmy is a dedicated member of the prep cook team at Ithaca Bakery, where he continues to receive job coaching from our Employment Specialists to encourage and support his continued growth.

“I immediately saw his skills and abilities,” recalls Travis Carruthers, Jimmy’s coach during his first stint at Finger Lakes Fresh. “It was just a couple of days in, and we decided to throw a new task at him. He hit the ground running with it, and any feedback we gave he was willing to take and apply. It was phenomenal.”

Jimmy’s gamely attitude and proficiency at multitasking was quickly recognized at Ithaca Bakery as well. Says Ramona Eastman, Director of Human Resources, “He’s been an excellent addition to our team. We are very, very glad to have him.” Ramona also mentioned an instance when Jimmy went out of his way to help a coworker: one of the prep cooks who showed him the ropes early on was learning English as a second language, and Jimmy patiently worked with her to practice her pronunciation.

Jimmy’s current job duties include packaging cream cheese, preparing whitefish, and slicing pickles, and he is interested in expanding his repertoire. “Cooking is a real passion for me,” he says. “From what I learned in school, I can be versatile in both sweet and savory foods. I’m planning on working my way up at the bakery, from being a prep cook to being one of the chefs or bakers.”

Jimmy’s coaches have no doubt that, with the right supports, Jimmy can achieve these career objectives and more. Says Travis, “The sky’s the limit.” Jimmy’s current Employment Specialist, Matt Dankanich, concurs: “From my first meeting with Jimmy, it was clear that he has the skills and the focus he needs to reach any goal he sets. His combination of drive and talent will set him up for success in anything he decides to do.”